Hobo With a Shotgun

Release Year: 2011
Country: Canada
Director: Jason Eisener
Writers: John Davies, Jason Eisener, Rob Cotterill
Starring: Rutger Hauer, Molly Dunsworth, Brian Downey, Gregory Smith, Nick Bateman, Jeremy Akerman
Cinematography: Karim Hussain
Music: Adam Burke, Darius Holbert, Russ Howard III, The Obsidian Orchestra
Producers: Chris Bell, Rob Cotterill, Niv Fichman, Paul Gross, Kevin Kritst, Andrea Raffaghello, Frank Siracusa

Hobo With a Shotgun owes its existence to Quentin Tarrantino and Robert Rodriguez’s Grindhouse films. While I like the Grindhouse project, perhaps Planet Terror a bit more than Death Proof, are they really what they purport to be? Are they Grindhouse films? However, that’s a question for later, what we’re looking at is how Hobo and the Grindhouse films are connected.

Those you have seen Grindhouse – or singularly Planet Terror would be aware of the faux trailer for Machete. The trailer proved so popular that an actual film was made, based on the incidents shown in the trailer. Now Machete cannot be really called a good film, but it was fast paced and fun and delivered everything that was promised in the trailer. But there were other trailers beside Machete.

Upon Grindhouse’s release, as a publicity gimmick, a competition was held to create a Grindhouse style trailer. The winner of this competition, was for a fictitious film called Hobo With a Shotgun. Allegedly, this trailer was incorporated into the Grindhouse program in North America – although, I have not seen this trailer myself.

Now, several years later a film has been made based on the trailer, the big difference being that Rutger Hauer is playing the titular hobo. And that’s where I come into the story. As an Australian, I was unaware of the trailer competition, and therefore unaware of Hobo With a Shotgun’s backstory. All I knew was that there was a new film called Hobo With a Shotgun and it starred Rutger Hauer. Those two points were all it was required to sell me.

Now I like watching trash and exploitation pictures. I’ll watch practically any type of ‘ploitation’ picture, be it Blaxploitation, Bruceplotation, Nunsploitation, Rednexploitation, MadMaxploitation, anything really…and therefore my standards aren’t very high. Violence, Sex and Sleaze are old friends and it takes a lot for me to be disgusted. But Hobo With a Shotgun came close to crossing that line. It is a violent, repugnant piece of work, that has no redeeming features at all. But I seem to be alone in that opinion, with the internet buzz suggesting that the film is a genre classic. Maybe I am just getting old.

I think I draw the line at violence being perpetrated against children. I know cinema is all make believe and no actual children were harmed, but when the villains of the piece, torched a bus load of children with a flame thrower, I thought the film went too far. This was after a scene, where a paedofile in a Santa suit is seen driving off with a boy in the back seat, banging on the rear window, begging for help, while the townsfolk ignore him. These aren’t gory scenes by this film’s standards, but the themes encompassed are simply abhorrent. And they don’t add to the story at all either. The bus scene could have just as easily been a load of adults, and the same emotional content – that being, making the the viewer hate the villains that bit more – could have been achieved.

The film opens with an un-named Hobo (Rutger Hauer) hitching a lift on a cargo train. The train pulls into Hope Town – although the sign at the limits has been tagged and now says Scum Town. Later, a police officer refers to the city as Fuck Town. Either way, this city is not a friendly place, and in some ways echoes the village, ‘The Unhappy Place’ in Guilio Questi’s Django Kill: If You Live Shoot. Immediately the Hobo is a witness to a strange event on the streets. A man, whose hands have been tied, runs through the street with a thick circular collar around his neck. This collar just so happens to be the same width as a manhole cover. This man asks the town folk on the streets to untie his hands, but everybody ignores him. The citizens live in fear and don’t want to get involved.

Cars race into the street from opposite ends, blocking the man’s progress. From the vehicles step underworld kingpin, The Drake (Brian Downey), and his two delinquent sons, Slick (Gregory Smith) and Ivan (Nick Bateman). It turns out that the hunted man is The Drake’s younger brother, and somehow he has offended his criminally minded sibling. No explanation is really offered, but as punishment, the younger brother is marched into the middle of the street where he is lowered into a manhole, where his collar locks him into place. His head is now the only part of his body visible. Then a barbed wire noose is placed around his head, while the other end is tied to a car. On The Drake’s signal, the car speeds off, and his brothers is decapitated sending a shower of blood high into the sky. If the scene wasn’t fucked up enough, then a girl in a bikini and a white fur coat starts to dance in the shower of blood.

The town folk return to their business and the hobo moves on. Later, the hobo finds himself outside The Drake’s nightclub, which is more like a torturous amusement park. The viewer is introduced to the sort of fun that is had inside, by a visual of a man being forcibly held down on a dodge-em car track, when two cars plow into his head from opposite sides. His head disintegrates in a balloon of blood.

The hobo enters the club and watches from the shadows, and sees a young hooker, named Abby (Molly Dunsworth) picked up by Slick. She thinks it’s an opportunity to earn some decent money. But Slick is pretty perverted, and things quickly get out of hand. But before things get really ugly, the hobo steps into the fray and knocks Slick out. He claims to be making a citizens arrest.

The hobo drags Slick to the police station. However the hobo is not received politely. The police chief is in cahoots with The Drake, and he frees Slick. Then Slick, with Ivan’s help, kick the shit out of the hobo and carve a message into his chest. But they don’t kill him. They simply throw his battered body into a garbage heap.

Later the battered and bleeding hobo staggers along a line of streetwalking girls, looking for Abby. He finds her, and she takes him back to her apartment, and she patches him up – and allows him a good night’s sleep on her bed. However, in the morning he is gone, and that would be it, but the hobo has a dream to buy a lawn mower and start his own business. He goes to a pawn shop to enquire about a mower, but before he has a chance, three hoodlums barge in, threatening the customers and demanding money.

The hobo decides enough is enough, and picks up a shotgun from the wall (strange it should be loaded). Then he begins to dispense his own unique brand of shotgun justice. But it doesn’t end here. The hobo marches out onto the street and starts killing all the riff-raff. Soon, his actions have caught the public and the media’s attention, and he becomes somewhat of a people’s hero.

Of course, this does not sit well with The Drake and his boys and they put a bounty on the hobo’s head. In fact, they put a bounty on all homeless people. So ordinary folk, with a mob mentality, suddenly start killing the homeless folk, man, woman or child, and with each death, they get closer to finding and catching the hobo.

When a corrupt police officer tries to force Abby into performing sexual acts, the hobo steps in, providing his unique justice, and then the two of them escape back to her apartment. The hobo relates his lawn mowing business dream, and Abby says that she will go with him, and they can both start a new life together in a new town. But before they can leave, Skip and Ivan turn up – violence, trouble and a large amount of bloodletting ensues.

The only thing I can think to compare this too is the current crop of Japanese gorefests, such as Tokyo Gore Police, Vampire Girl and Frankenstein Girl and many others. The Japanese films cross the lines of good taste too, but there a sense of style, and even professionalism in their productions, which can be admired, even if you don’t particularly like the film. Hobo With a Shotgun does not display that professionalism. The acting is amateur at best, particularly from Gregory Smith and Nick Bateman who play Slick and Ivan – two of the central characters. Brian Downey as The Drake only fairs marginally better. I think he can act, but in this instance chose to go widely over the top – embarrassingly so.

The gore effects thankfully aren’t CGI, but they are crude and simplistic, with almost balloon or garden hose delivery systems. If that’s your thing, then this film delivers everything from decapitations, machete slashing, stomachs slit open by baseball bats with razorblades embedded in them, hacksaws to the neck, hands being vaporised in lawnmower blades, and of course, multiple shotgun blasts.

Defining exactly what an exploitation picture is, is very difficult. I guess they have to have some exploitable quality, and I guess Hobo With a Shotgun exploits star Rutger Hauer. I love Rutger, and will watch the bulk of his work knowing full well it isn’t very good. And here I have done so again, and in saying that, may I suggest that in its way Hobo With a Shotgun is a more successful Grindhouse exploitation flick than Death Proof, Planet Terror or Machete. These last three films provide a decent nights entertainment, whether it be at the cinema or in front of the television at home. Many people, myself included, will watch them again and again. However, most likely I will never watch Hobo With a Shotgun again. It is a film that has exploited my fondness for Hauer films. I watched it solely because his name was on the poster, and now I feel cheated – possibly exploited – and definitely unclean.

The thing is, readers don’t come to P2K looking for reviews of family friendly cinema. If you have done so, I apologize for the pictorial content. Most visitors here are cult and exploitation film savvy, and like myself are going to hear about Hobo With a Shotgun and want to watch it for themselves to make up their own minds. I understand and appreciate that, but if I may be so arrogant to suggest that maybe this one to steer clear of… who am I kidding, you’ll watch it anyway.

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